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Billionaire Jack Ma Resurfaces after Mysterious Three-Month Absence

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, arrives at a summit in Paris, France, May 15, 2019. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma resurfaced on Wednesday after disappearing from public view for several months, easing concerns about his whereabouts and prompting Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s stock to surge.

In his first public appearance in nearly three months, Ma, 56, spoke over video at a virtual event Wednesday called the “Jack Ma Rural Teachers Awards” during which he gave remarks to dozens of teachers from rural schools. His appearance was followed by a spike in the stock price of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant Ma co-founded, which closed 8.5 percent higher on Wednesday.

“Jack Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on January 20,” the billionaire’s foundation said in a statement.

Ma, an English teacher before he became a tech entrepreneur and China’s fourth-richest man with a net worth of about $53 billion, has laid low since October, when he faced blowback for a speech in which he criticized China’s financial regulatory system. He has reportedly been staying in mainland China and had not been seen in public since the October 24 speech.

Following the speech, Chinese regulators suspended Alibaba affiliate Ant Group’s $37 billion initial public stock offering, which would have been the world’s largest IPO, at the behest of Chinese President Xi Jinping. China’s market regulator also opened an investigation in December into Alibaba for alleged anti-competitive practices. Alibaba subsequently lost nearly $200 billion.

Ma’s disappearance caused particular buzz when he was absent from the finale of the reality show he created, “Africa’s Business Heroes.”

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